bill stanley sherman witcher

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, and Sherman Witcher

After Democrats snubbed him, Sherman Witcher is running as an independent against Sen. Bill Stanley.

Witcher was the only person seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Stanley, R-Franklin. But when Democrats met earlier this month to pick a nominee, 14 of them voted to put no one on the November ballot, while nine voted for Witcher.

“They dropped me like a hot potato,” Witcher said Monday.

Chris Daniel, the chairman of the committee organizing the nomination process, had said Witcher didn’t seem to be “building the organizational structure it would have taken for a campaign.”

Witcher, 56, said he was caught off guard and expected to secure the nomination.

“When I got knocked out by 14 people, I looked like a joke,” Witcher said. “This isn’t a joke. I won’t let my guard down again.”

Witcher quickly filed paperwork to run as an independent, giving Stanley his only opponent this fall.

“In my heart I’m a Democrat, so I won’t bash the party,” Witcher said. “But it was not a smart move to not put up somebody. Any competition is better than no competition, and by deciding not to run anybody, they robbed the voice of the people.”

This will be Witcher’s third time seeking public office. He ran for state Senate in 2007 as an independent against Republican Robert Hurt, receiving 24% of the vote. Again as an independent candidate, he tried to unseat Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin, in 2009, but lost with 21% of the vote.

Witcher works jobs in agriculture and lives in Rocky Mount. He said he’s focused on lifting up a “forgotten” region to attract new businesses and jobs. He said Southside’s public education system needs improvement.

“I want to be proactive and reactive,” Witcher said.

Stanley, 51, was first elected to the Senate in 2011 in a special election to succeed Hurt. An attorney, he’s known for taking on challenging criminal justice reform issues. His push for the state to halt the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for those who don’t promptly pay court debt will go into effect next month. Over the past year, he’s advocated for figuring out how to tackle repairing Virginia’s crumbling public schools.

The 20th Senate District covers Henry and Patrick counties, Galax and Martinsville as well as parts of Danville and Carroll, Franklin, Halifax and Pittsylvania counties. Stanley has faced an opponent for each reelection bid.

All 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for election this November, and Republicans are trying to hold on to a two-seat majority in the Senate and House of Delegates.

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